The helpline that tackles elderly loneliness – with a fashionable twist

Its main mission is to provide a helpline to tackle loneliness in the over-65s, but who says pensioners can’t have fun with fashion?

So Volunteer Centre Edinburgh, part of the team which runs Loops (Local Opportunities for Older People) staged a model event as part of Luminate: Scotland’s creative ageing festival.

The guests got to chat over a cuppa and cake, share experiences, and pick up fashion tips with a range of clothes provided free by Sainsbury’s.

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Heather Yang, development officer for Loops, said: “The whole project is to prevent isolation and loneliness. There are a lot of people who say that the most communication they have is with the TV through the day, so they are not going out of the house, they are not getting any fresh air or anything which is impacting on their health.

“So we are here to help to get that person out and we suggest a number of activities that might be suitable for them. It is all about building friendships as people get older so they can maintain their health as much as anything else.”

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In the audience, Winnie (left) and Dorothy, two local residents, were picking up new fashion ideas.

Winnie said: “It’s been very interesting. I saw two older women wearing just leggings which I thought I can’t wear at my age…and there you go.”

Dorothy added: “I found out about the fashion show from the open day at Meadowbank and it’s been good fun.”

It is the first time that Winnie and Dorothy have attended one of the sessions that the Volunteer Centre organise.

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Marion Findlay, the director of services for Volunteer Edinburgh, believes that the fashion event shows a fun side of ageing and encourages people to visit their centre to get information and find ways to help the community.

She said: “Being involved in the Luminate festival is a way of highlighting Loops, our phone line. We get information every day on the phone line and people can find out about activities that older people can get involved in the city.”

The helpline service was set up in 2014 and has helped more than 750 people. Funded by the NHS and City of Edinburgh Council, and working in partnership with local voluntary organisations, Loops is a free service for people who are over 65 in Edinburgh.

Development officer Heather Yang said: “The most difficult thing is reaching people behind closed doors, it is very difficult to reach those isolated older people, how do you know who’s hidden behind the door? The percentage of older people in Edinburgh is quite large and is growing. The number of people over 85 is going to double by 2025. So there is a crisis ahead.”

The project is run by more than 20 volunteers who take phone calls from older people, neighbours, relatives, or anybody who has a concern about a lonely older person.

Heather added: “We are finding that we are getting a lot of calls about people in their 90s or from people with health issues. It is all about sharing expertise and letting older people get out of the house and find out things that are going on.

“If anybody phone us it is always a friendly person that is picking up the telephone and we always get back to people either by post, by email or by telephone. Our volunteers take phone calls from 10am to 2pm on 0131 603 8311. But, if you can’t phone us, you can email us at loops@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk.”

To find out more, please visit: Loops phoneline

To get involved in volunteering, go here: Volunteer Centre Edinburgh

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